Golden Tortoise Beetle, a beauty to behold

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“The Golden Tortoise Beetle, isn’t it beautiful? They are actually capable of color changing, appearing sometimes as red or brown, and at other times as gold.

“The word of the day is ‘Charidotella’, referring to a genus of beetles commonly known as ‘tortoise beetles’. The beetles are herbivorous, feeding on the leaves of plants from the sweet potato and morning glory families.

Golden Tortoise Beetle (Photo credit: Cyren Asteraceys)
Golden Tortoise Beetle (Photo credit: Cyren Asteraceys)

“Despite being an agricultural pest, the beetle is most often regarded as a kind of curiosity; capable of changing its color from dull red and browns with black spots, to a brilliant, metallic, silver or gold color in a matter of minutes.

“It is one of the few insects capable of dramatic color changes. The beetle is able to achieve the metallic effect by controlling the moisture that is trapped between the outer cuticle and the inner layers of the elytra (shell/wing casing).

“In this way, by reducing or increasing the pressure in its wings, the beetle can create reflective surfaces under its outer wing cases that creates a gold-like appearance.

Golden Tortoise Beetle (Photo credit: YC Wee)
Golden Tortoise Beetle (Photo credit: YC Wee)

“It is believed that the insects change their color in response to various stimuli. The semi-transparent wing cases and the reflective gold surface serves the purpose of breaking the insect’s outline, causing them to appear as droplets of water to passing birds.

“When disturbed, they take on a red-brown base with black spots, mimicking the markings of many species of ladybirds, which are distasteful to most predators.

“They also change colors when attracting mates, suggesting that there may also be a social element behind these dramatic visual cues. The insect is native to the Americas but has become an introduced species in many parts of the world.”

Cyren Asteraceya
Malaysia
6th March 2017

IG: @theofficialnerdbird
Naturetalksback

References:
1. Beetles uses ‘switchable reflector’ to change from gold to red”
2. Featured Creatures
3. Glad you ditched the anal fork, Golden Tortoise Beetle
4. The beautiful golden tortoise beetle
5. Wikipedia: Golden tortoise beetle

This post is a cooperative effort between Birds, Insects N Creatures Of Asia and BESG to bring the study of birds and their behavior through photography and videography to a wider audience.

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